Despite a frustrating amount of injuries this season, the White Sox farm system remains among the best in baseball. While half of their Preseason Top 10 have spent time on the DL in 2018, there’s still enough high-end talent to give you hope, and the string of bad luck hasn’t necessarily pushed back their competitive window, as The Athletic’s James Fegan notes.
BP’s prospect team released its Midseason Top 50 Prospects list on Friday (read the whole thing here), and the White Sox were about as well represented as you might expect, with Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and Luis Robert making the cut. That the two pitchers on the list are two of the White Sox prospects not befallen by injury this year is not surprising, nor is the inclusion of Jimenez or Robert, despite their injury woes.
There’s not much that can be written about Jimenez at this point that hasn’t already been said. After destroying Double-A for the better part of two months, he kept pace in Triple-A for a few weeks before being disabled for the second time this season with a strained left adductor muscle that isn’t expected to keep him out for a prolonged period of time. One can reasonable surmise that if it weren’t for that and the missed time during the first month of the season, he’d be ineligible for this list as he’d be in the majors already. Barring further setbacks, he’ll likely be in Chicago at some point this summer.
Kopech is another name that you might not have expected to be eligible for the Midseason Top 50 at the beginning of the season, but his command struggles have at least given some pause for a pitcher who still has No. 1 starter upside. Kopech has walked at least four batters in nine of his last 12 starts and failed to get through five innings in five of those. It’s both easy and foolish to scout the stat line, but those who watch him have expressed some concern about the fact that he hasn’t yet harnessed his command, as that will be the different between Kopech being the starting pitcher everyone hopes he can become and a pitcher whose stuff plays better in relief.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the White Sox trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs, and while Jimenez remains the prize of that trade, the continued progress of Cease has been perhaps the biggest bright spot for the White Sox farm system this year. After pitching a combined 162 innings in his first four years as a pro and never topping 93 1/3 in any single season as the Cubs handled him extremely carefully following Tommy John surgery in 2014, not only is Cease already at 88 1/3 innings in early July, he dominated High-A and hasn’t missed a beat in three starts since a late June promotion to Double-A. Pure stuff has never been the question for Cease, it’s been a question of both mechanics and command. He’s passed every early test the White Sox have given him so far and is starting to serve notice.
Robert is the biggest enigma of the group, just as he was before the season. After spending all of 2017 after his signing in the Dominican Summer League, he’s been limited to fewer than 100 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A this season, but has shown enough of why the White Sox gave him a $26 million signing bonus despite the limited action for him to remain one of the top prospects in the game.
BP’s lead prospect writer, Jeffrey Paternostro (who is doing a Q&A on the list at 2 p.m. CT today, follow along and ask questions here), has said on a number of occasions that the midseason list is constructed from scratch and not based on the Preseason Top 101 at all. Still, it’s tough not to compare the two. In the White Sox case, the most notable difference is with Alec Hansen, who checked in at No. 40 in the Preseason 101 and was omitted from this iteration. This makes sense if for no other reason than because Hansen hasn’t pitched much since that preseason list was constructed. He made just one appearance in the Cactus League before being shut down with a forearm muscular issue that wound up sidelining him for three months. He’s made five starts since his return and hasn’t quite returned to the form that shot him up the rankings a year ago.
Beyond Hansen, there aren’t a lot of players you could’ve expected to see. Luis Alexander Basabe is definitely trending up despite a rough start at Double-A, and Dane Dunning was likely close despite an injury that will sideline him likely through the end of the season. Blake Rutherford and Zack Collins are both having fine seasons and if this were a Midseason Top 101, might have made the cut.
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